Unfortunately, business owners must always be prepared to deal with bad publicity and the implications it can have on their business. However, if dealt with efficiently and appropriately, you can minimise the damage that bad publicity can cause in order to repair and restore your reputation.
Even if you haven’t yet experienced bad publicity, it’s always a good option to prepare yourself for it. Have a think about the potential pitfalls that could occur and how bad publicity may come about, then you can put together a process for dealing with the issue should it arrive in the future. Consider both online and offline processes – if a customer leaves a bad review on one of your social media channels, how are you going to respond? Or if a customer calls you to complain, what process are you going to follow in order to resolve that issue? These are all questions you should ask yourself before you start. You may not have to refer to your policies very often, but if and when you do, you’ll be glad that you prepared for the situation before it happened.
If a customer leaves you a negative comment or review online, you need to make sure that your response is fast. Social media in particular means that information can spread incredibly quickly, so you need to make sure that you’re available to respond to any bad publicity quickly and professionally. Your customers need to be able to see that you are committed to resolving the situation and that you care about their experience, be it good or bad.
Top tip: Take the conversation from your public platform into a private message. Not only will your customer have the opportunity to talk their issue out 1-1 with you and receive a personalised service in return, other consumers will recognise your efforts to resolve the situation appropriately too.
Not quite sure where to start with how you are going to handle bad publicity? Do some research into how other companies have dealt with publicity issues in order to produce your own policies to suit your business. Of course, every organisation will handle these situations differently, but if you’re a small business owner, it’s good to see how other businesses are handling these situations – learning from both their successes and failures can be highly beneficial.
When faced with bad publicity, you need to be prepared to offer an apology. Doing this doesn’t mean that you are admitting to being in the wrong, but it demonstrates that you are willing to hold your hands up and resolve any problematic issues. Unfortunately, things go wrong and the situation may have been completely out of your control, but if you are able to prove to your customers that you care about their problems and are willing to offer them a resolution, it can defuse the situation quickly before it gets any worse. Not only that, but you are proving that you and your business cares about its customers, even when they have something negative to say.
Issue a Statement
Depending on the severity of the issue, you may be required to issue an official statement. This is particularly important if the bad publicity has landed you in the hands of the media. Issuing a statement is an official and professional way for you to reach audiences sincerely and effectively. A lot of the time, consumers will make their final decision on an organisation based on the way that they respond to the publicity they receive, and an official statement can act as a stable way to settle the dust and provide you with a stepping stone to begin rebuilding your reputation.
The final step in handling bad publicity, is to make sure that you review what happened and how the situation was handled once the dust has settled. There may be areas of your policies that you want to update due to your recent experience. Reviewing your experience and adjusting procedures if necessary will only better prepare you should you ever have to go through the situation again in the future. Not only that, but it proves that you take bad publicity seriously and are actively working to avoid them in the future.